15 de febrero de 2012

The pronuntiatio musicale

On February 13, 2012, the oboist Rafael Palacios defended his PhDiss. La pronuntiatio musicale: une interprétation rhétorique au service de Handel, Monteclair, C. P. E. Bach et Telemann, at the Université Paris Sorbonne. The jury was formed by the musicologists Raphaëlle Legrand (Sorbonne) and Catherine Massip (Sorbonne), the Canadian fortepianist  Tom Beghin  (McGill University) and Rubén López Cano (ESMuC).

In my opinion, the thesis makes a fundamental contribution to the development of performative musicology: the musicological research on, from or through the musical instrument, with the aim of informing musical performance and, in this case seeks models directly affect the interpretation of early music we have today.

But on the other hand, work directly affects also within the scope of the tradition of research and application of rhetoric to music. By this I mean of course the historical body of theory developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and known by the generic name of Musica poetica. But the thesis makes a significant contribution also to musical semiotics.

The substantial element of work, I think, is his attempt to build a whole musical pronuntatio designed to conceptualize, analyze and theorize about some elements of the process of interpretation. The pronuntatio is the key area of rhetoric aimed to regulate some aspects of the orator’s performance. This field was not taken by writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth century with the same intensity and care that other areas of rhetoric as the inventio (heuristic processes to generate ideas and arguments for the discourse), the dispositio (the distribution of arguments in strategic areas to discursive argumentation) or elocutio (putting into words the speech, particularly the application of rhetorical figures or deviations that could contribute to the elegance of language, discourse’s pregnance and to call to listener's attention and persuade him/her).

The work of Palacios repeat the transdisciplinar exercise performed for the writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth. He takes the concepts, categories and meta-language of classical rhetoric to shape a theory of musical eloquence. In this case, the author achieves a successful battery of well-conceptualized terms of the musical interpretation phenomena. This qualifies as either a vice or rhetorical license.

The proposed concepts such as prothesis, paragoge, diacrèsis, ecstasy, synaloephê, syncope, barbirolexis or amphibolia, are analytical categories that could become conceptualizations of a qualitative dimension and humanistic values. This is all an alternative to existing analytical studies of musical performance, dominated by the English literature and developed primarily through quantitative methodologies.

I think the work done, for example, by the Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music by respected musicologists as Nicholas Cook and John Rink. They have developed software to quantify in detail aspects of musical performance and tempi changes. However, the categories proposed by Palacios are qualitative, are immeasurable and open the possibility of a musical analysis of the interpretation, rhetoric and hermeneutically founded. Make room for the humanities to enter again into musical studies. This looks like one of the most important contributions of the thesis. This is a substantial proposal, very necessary and useful. Is the return of Burmeister and Mattheson to the theory of music. The return of Cicero and Quintilliano to study music. I think this thesis is one of the greatest contributions of the studies of musical rhetoric in the last thirty years.

Today it is as if Gaudi's Sagrada Familia had been finally concluded. One of the most fascinating projects in music theory of all time that began in the early seventeenth century in Rostock by Joachim Burmeister (1566 - 1629), finally ended its theoretical program yesterday in Paris, thanks to Palacios.

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